what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Bogdan - old friend RIP

I want to pay tribute today to a Romanian artist friend who died earlier this week at the age of 59 – Bogdan Dumitrescu.
He was essentially a sculptor – with the knots of wood as his inspiration. He was Daniela’s closest schoolmate and a penniless alcoholic - whose frequent telephone calls would sometimes lead to angry exchanges…..for his comments could often be cutting.

He was self-taught - his attempts to get into art school in Iasi failed, there were about half a dozen places available for more than a hundred aspirants at the time.....What hurt more was the refusal of the Romanian Union of Artists to admit him to its ranks....
 In the 80s he worked for a time at Bucharest’s famous Village Museum.... but his artistic temperament was impatient with the discipline involved….
His flat in Ploiesti was the most unkempt I have ever experienced – the photo is actually of his sitting room (the cleaner part!) but his genius (of which he was all too painfully aware) showed in his selection of woodcuts and strange fittings.
He was also a heavy smoker and had been in and out of hospital so often for treatment for the abuse from which his body was suffering……. He knew he was near to death – but his wry if not macabre humour still showed

The second photo is one of two tryptyches which are lovingly displayed in our mountain house 

The last two photos are of the 2 small pieces we bought on our last visit – just a week before he died….

In the 90s we visited the Sapanta "Happy Graveyard" in Maramures for which a local wood carver created colourful and amusing memorials to those buried.....We need an appropriate ditty for Bogdan....but these wood sculptures of his will, in our various flats and mountain house, remind us of his great spirit....

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dawdling in Dobrogea

We left Bucharest on Friday - first for Romania’s port city of Constanta where Daniela had a friend's christening....the little Dali hotel on a charming promontory in the heart of the old city the Greeks called Tomis gave us immediate access to the city's excellent art gallery which absorbed us for the Saturday morning....
This is an album of the paintings which I have posted on flickr -  about 150 paintings and a score of sculptures 

You get a sense of the city's charm with this panoramic video from the tower of one of the mosques – although the antics of their mayor has allowed the jewel of their Nouveau Art Casino to reach a state of decay which seems irreparable. "A  Patriot’s Romania" blog had a little comment about this – and about the town’s interesting religious traditions – which complements nicely this fascinating paper on Jewish architecture in the city

The meal which followed the christening was a rare opportunity for me to study Romanians en famille and I thoroughly enjoyed it......so much so that we were unable to attend the concert in the Art Gallery which was celebrating Night of the Museums…. 

We left Constanta early on Sunday reckoning that the 600 kilometre drive to Sofia was a bit much for one day and that a border crossing at Silistra on the southern bank of the Danube would avoid the 20 minute minimum wait on the old bridge at Russe which major repairs are causing.
New security checks are also causing delays but only 3 cars were in front of us at the Silistra check
But before then we had been charmed by the rolling hills and smart villages of Dobrogea (the grapes from the famous Murfatlar and other wines clearly bring in some cash); and the huge white memorial of Roman General Traian to fallen Roman soldiers a 1977 rebuild of which towers over the countryside. We passed the vineyards of the Ostrov wine but were unable to find any wine for tasting or purchase….  

There's a nice blogpost here about the Ostrov ferry from A Patriot's Romania

Silistra was sleepy – with a small mosque in its main street and didn’t detain us as we sped to Russe for the night...
I just managed to get to its art gallery – which had earned a black mark from me when I last visited it some 4 winters earlier…. 
This time it made more impact – thanks mainly to the conversation with one of its curators….But I didn’t remember seeing before the works of Radoykov (above) and Lazorov ….

And I'm now in Sofia - for the next week or so for the next stage of the dental upgrade and check-up with the dermatologist (for the shingles).






Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mapping Romania - a bumper new version!!

Many of my readers, understandably, went elsewhere as my posts flagged at the beginning of the year but I am delighted to welcome my Russian readers back - and to pay tribute to their good sense in seeking out older posts which, for me, are as good as (or even better than) more recent writing….The country of my readers is about the only thing my blog statistics tell me so is something in which I take particular interest…..   

Anyway, now that I’m back in Romania and anticipating a visit later in June from three old friends, I offer a 250 page book – with hundreds of photographs and of hyperlinks. It’s Mapping Romania – notes on an unfinished journey, a new, expanded edition of a small E-book I first published 2 years ago. 

I readily admit that it is an odd collection - consisting of three elements
First an exhaustive annotated list of writing (mainly in English) about the diverse cultural aspects of Romania – whether music, photography, literature, buildings, cinema……with hundreds of hyperlinks………you just dip in and view, read or listen as the mood takes you…These lists are interspersed with excerpts from papers and books to give more depth….

I have, secondly, selected (mainly for the Annexes) some substantial articles which seem to me to capture an important aspect of the “soul” of the country – one is a harrowing description which appeared in the New York Review of Books in the 1980s (but written by a Romanian) of the suffering being experienced then by the Romanian people; another is a fairly coruscating view of the country in 2000 by the famous historian Tony Judt; and the final article is one on the new wave of Romanian cinema which I’ve included simply because the themes represented in the films capture so well the concerns of contemporary Romania….

- The third element in the collection are the 70-odd pieces I’ve posted about Romania on my blog. The most personal of the sections….. 

The nice thing about the version I have posted is that it can be read as a book - with facing pages which you can flick......very nice feature....courtesy of ISSUU website......